Honors students reach out to Sweetwater

By: James Radziewicz/Asst. Life! Editor
The idea that art and music know no age came alive when the FIU Honors College collaborated with the city of Sweetwater and Sweetwater Elementary School on April 7 for an evening exhibition of works from both schools.
This artistic joint effort has been in the making for the past six months. The Honors College and local leaders sought to offer students an avenue to contribute to FIU’s neighboring community of Sweetwater, as well as learn life and leadership skills.
Wednesday’s event, held at the Jorge Mas Canosa Youth Center, featured artistic works and musical performances from both Cecile Houry’s leadership class at the Honors College and students of art and music classes at nearby Sweetwater Elementary.
However, the harmony goes beyond the musical pieces that attendees witnessed.
This event has been a collaboration in every sense of the word, from Honors College and Sweetwater Elementary faculty to students from both institutions.
Last year, the Honors College expressed an interest in expanding its works with the community, giving opportunity to many students to give back to their local community.
To date, FIU Honors College students perform various services in the area, including after-school tutoring and athletic programs. Wednesday evening was the largest joint effort between the two schools.
The Artistic Evening event began as an idea between Honors College professor Cecile Houry and Sweetwater Elementary principal, Janet Olivera.
Houry then presented the concept as a semester project to the students of her leadership class. However, according to Houry, the students proved themselves to be examples of leadership in action. With Houry’s coordination and guidance, the students put their efforts into action.
“The students really helped build this,” Houry said.
The Honors College professor takes great pride in the initiative her students took to help create, coordinate and advertise for this event.
Various pieces of student’s art were submitted to be on display, as well as musical performances ranging from guitar and drums to classical violin.
Students also approached local businesses to help spread the word for this project, as well as set up various fundraisers to make this idea a reality.
FIU students have already been involved in various activities around the community, including computer training for seniors, citizenship classes for immigrants, and various programs at Sweetwater Elementary.
However, as Houry acknowledged, this evening event is on a much bigger scale, and would not have been as cohesive without the students’ efforts.
Tatiana Martinez-Pandiani, sophomore theater major, was one of the students who helped to create and coordinate this event. She sees this as the beginning of future progress between the two schools.
“The main goal was to take the first steps toward the partnership,” Martinez-Pandiani said. “This is a way to reach out to the community.”
Olivera agrees that this is an excellent first step. Aside from benefitting from the tutoring sessions the Honors College has provided, this exhibition will also allow the elementary students to show their abilities.
“I have very talented children,” Olivera said. “[Working with college students] lets these kids show that talent, and see what the future holds in store for them.”
This being her premiere year as principal at Sweetwater Elementary, Olivera was very enthusiastic about the scale on which this program has been done and grateful for all the effort Honors College has put forth.
“This has been very beneficial to both parties; the FIU students love the kids, and the kids love the students,” Olivera shared. “It has been perfect.”
Along with the art displays and musical performances, there were several speakers to commemorate the event, including Sweetwater Mayor Manuel L. Maroño, Olivera and the University’s Interim Dean of Honors Lesley Northup.

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